End of the Anderson era at YSU

It was a different age in education when Cynthia E. Anderson entered Youngstown State University as a freshman in 1968 from that of today, when she left as president of the institution.

The 1968 graduates who received their diplomas’s the previous May were the first graduating class of Youngstown State University. Gov. James A Rhodes, who had worked to bring Youngstown University into the state college system, was the main speaker at the dedication of YSU’s new $5 million engineering building in September 1968. Rhodes and the General Assembly shared a commitment to supporting higher education in the state.

YSU, which had reached a new high in enrolment with 14,519 that fall, commissioned a study aimed at preparing it for a projected enrollment of 25,000 by 1980.

Enrollment, however, would level off long before that, state support would contract dramatically as a percentage of the university’s cost of operation and the difference would be made up through appeals to public philanthropy and, of course, through tuition increases.

Tuition for an in-state student such as Anderson was $450 a year in 1968. At the last meeting of the board of trustees attended by Anderson as president, tuition was increased to nearly $4,000 a semester, about 18 times the yearly cost in 1968.

Changes and constants

During a conversation with Vindicator editors recently, Anderson talked about the changes in education during her career and the constants. She described her legacy as “not highfalutin.” The constants: Her “heart and soul was in teaching ... and with the students.”

Those constants made her a popular choice for president three years ago and define her success as YSU’s seventh president.

But she also showed herself to be an effective fund-raiser in an age when fund raising is one of the most important things a president does. YSU raised a record $10.3 million in the last year of her presidency. And she dealt with the challenges of diminishing state financial support, and shrinking enrollment. She says that it is unlikely that YSU will ever have 15,000 students on campus again, but during her three years, the university has begun making a more serious effort to expand its distance-learning degrees, an area in which many schools have a head start.

It has been said — on this page and elsewhere — that the next president of YSU must be a transformational president. Dr. Randy Dunn takes over in two weeks, and his challenge will be to assure YSU its place in a state system that demands more while providing less.

He will have to build his own legacy. Dr. Anderson knows what hers is, and is comfortable with it.

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